(Disclaimer: This is probably going to come off as less of a review and more of a rant, though I’m going to try my best to make it a review as well.)
I love the Nightmare on Elm Street series. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, if you know anything about me. I first saw the movies around the time I was 16-17, which was about when the remake came out. Before that, I didn’t care about horror movies so much, but when that movie came out all my friends at the time were talking about going to see it and I got curious, so I finally sat down and watched the first movie and saw the rest from there. I watched the entire series (including Freddy vs. Jason) before moving on to the remake.
And I feel like I’m one of the only people who actually likes that movie.
I wanted to go over the fact that I had seen the entirety of the Nightmare franchise before seeing the remake to make it clear that I was initiated in the ways of the series, and it wasn’t just the fact that I hadn’t seen them that lets me like the remake. Believe me, that is definitely not the case. I believe one of the reasons I’m more inclined to like it while other fans of the series don’t is because it was aimed more at my age demographic. I’ll get into that later, though.
People hate this movie for some reason. Well, actually, I’ve seen people either say it’s the worst thing ever, or that it’s not terrible but rather that it is “unnecessary”. Well remakes are generally unnecessary but that’s not gonna stop people from doing them. I can make a counter argument for why it could be considered necessary, though, but again, I’ll get into that later. The thing I have a problem with is the simple fact that I can’t actually get a straight, objective answer out of people for why they think this movie is bad. They just say it’s awful and that’s it, without any reasoning. Or they’ll give really vague reasoning that doesn’t hold up, and the best I can get out of it is the mere fact that we’ve got butthurt fans upset over the fact that Robert Englund is not Freddy Krueger in the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, Robert Englund is great. He’s fantastic. He is Freddy. But if you’re going to do a remake, why wouldn’t you get someone else to play him? It only makes sense. Just because we’re remaking a movie with a new actor doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad automatically. And besides, I think Jackie Earl Halie is pretty much the best part about this movie.
Now, is this movie flawed? Yes, it is absolutely flawed, no doubt about it. I would say my biggest issue with this movie is its pacing. Everything happens way too fast and we hardly get a chance to really stop and think about what’s happening. From the very first scene we see someone being haunted by Freddy nightmares, and before the opening title screen he’s already dead without a chance to get any sort of real emotional connection with him. To compare to the original movie, we do open up on a nightmare scene, but we get to spend some more time with the character before she dies and we can get an emotional connection with her and feel the impact of her death on the other characters. We don’t really get that here. We don’t really get it with any of the characters’ deaths, to be honest. That’s both a pacing issue and a character development issue (but hey, this series has never been that great with character development if we’re going to be fair).
Another thing with the pacing is that they sort of figure out exactly what’s going on pretty quickly. “We’re being killed off in our dreams.” I mean, that is exactly what’s happening, but it sounds crazy. They admit that at first but then they accept it pretty quickly. You could say that’s a problem with pacing, and I’m split on whether or not it is. So yes, everything happens way too fast. Plus the main male character is basically a junkie but that’s beside the point.
The other flaw in this movie is more a product of the time it was created. It’s the style of the movie and the way they make all the characters look/act. A bunch of twenty-something-year-olds in high school. All the characters look too “perfect” while also looking very angsty (mostly the male characters are the angsty looking ones, actually). That’s not really a problem, but it can come off as annoying, but as I said it’s a style thing more than anything else. It gives off an air of teen/YA angst that most people like me hate… but honestly it’s not as annoying as it could have been and due to the subject matter of this movie, it works.
Ah, the subject matter. That is another reason some people might not like this movie, whether it’s a conscious reason or not. It was pretty much the same reason people hated the Twin Peaks movie when it first came out. The subject is dark and uncomfortable and just not something you’d want to be thinking about. But I mean, come on, it’s a horror movie! Of course it’s going to be like that. The original movie is about a child killer, how could this be any worse than tha- oh, they actually come out and say he’s a pedophile. That’s the subject the plot hinges on in fact. Ah.
Now, the original movie definitely had implications, but it never came out and said that’s what was going on. They were originally going to make more note of that, but they decided against it when there was an actual case of a pedophile and they didn’t want their movie associated with that. Recently Robert Englund said something along the lines of the words “child killer” are terrible enough on their own and you don’t need all that other stuff with it. I think what he meant by that was, the original movie had a subtlety to it while the subject matter of the remake was not so subtle and he didn’t like that.
Horror has this rule (that few people follow) called “less is more”. Subtlety is the greatest key for horror. So I totally get where he’s coming from and to some degree I agree with that point. However. I think there are some subjects that should be talked about more openly, especially in the context of a horror movie, for the exact reason that it is uncomfortable and we don’t want to talk about it. Going back to Twin Peaks, we were told the story of Laura Palmer in the show; we heard about all the terrible things that happened to her, but it was just vague enough that we didn’t fully grasp it. But in the movie, we get to see everything that happened. It was dark, it was terrible, it was uncomfortable. It was the point.
There are two sides to horror. Less can be more, and in most cases it is. But there are a few stories and subjects where delving into the deep black abyss of depravity is the point. It’s true horror, because it is real and it actually happens. The thing about Nightmare on Elm Street is, from the very first movie, it’s always been about suburban horrors. But at the same time it feels detached because the character of Freddy Krueger in the original movies feels more like a metaphor and most of the problems that arise is from broken families. In the remake, though, these kids have relatively stable home lives (as far as we can tell) but they’re still messed up in the heads. And we find out why.
Back to the subject of whether or not a remake is necessary or not. I think it is necessary. The original movies were very much a product of their time. They were drenched in 80’s camp and cheese and for people like me, who grew up in a different time, they aren’t particularly scary. Freddy, as iconic of a character as he is, has never been particularly scary to me. The necessity for a remake comes with updating the character for the current times, to be more “relatable”, if you will. I’ve found that most of the people who actually like this movie are in the age demographic that it was aimed at, so I feel like that is what they were trying to do. I found this Freddy Krueger legitimately more terrifying than Robert Englund’s Freddy. (Sorry, but it’s true. I still love Robert Englund, though.)
So, did they succeed in updating the movie? I would say yes and no. They updated it for the time that it came out, but the movie is clearly dated by that distinct 2000’s angst style. I think their best bet would be to make a movie that felt timeless. You wouldn’t really be able to tell what decade it’s from. Make Freddy legitimately terrifying. Give the kids he’s hunting down problems, not just from him, but also from their environment, like in the original series, but also give them mental problems like in the remake. I feel like this movie and the original movie each had ideas that, if they had been merged together, would have made a perfect movie, but each of them were lacking something the other had.
I could go on and on about this movie, but I’m not going to. So I’ll leave it at this: the Nightmare on Elm Street remake is not a perfect movie by any means, but I like it and I respect it for what it attempted to do, even if it didn’t succeed completely. Maybe most people hate it because they’re blinded by nostalgic love for the other movies, or maybe they’re too old to relate to it, I don’t really know. It’s not as terrible as people think, though. And it is necessary. I would love to see another attempt at a remake, even if it doesn’t have either Robert Englund or Jackie Earl Halie as Freddy. Get some new blood.
Or hey, we could go back and use the ideas proposed from New Nightmare. That’d be pretty neat. I’d love a spiritual successor to that movie.